Vietnamese Sweet Lemon Curry Soba Noodle Tofu Salad

If I’m going to enjoy tofu, it HAS to have been frozen, thawed, and pressed before being seasoned and cooked. Freezing tofu changes the texture into something I almost find enjoyable, so there’s always a block sitting in our freezer. This cold soba noodle salad with tofu, locally grown carrots, peppers, and tomatoes, and fried garlic is well worth repeating.

Here’s how I made it.

First, the thawed tofu needs to be pressed to expel excess liquid. I usually wrap it in a few layers of paper towels and gently squeeze it, being careful not to squeeze too hard and tear the block. Then it’s ready to be cut into bite-sized pieces and marinated. I chose a dry rub since it was going to be fried. Wet marinades make for quite a mess when it hits hot oil. Lesson learned!

The tofu was generously seasoned with Vietnamese Sweet Lemon Curry from Savory Spice Shop and then pan fried in peanut oil until crispy on all sides. The secret to getting a nice crust on each side is having a hot pan, hot oil, and not checking the food to see if it’s cooked, but waiting until it’s fully seared before flipping it. The chef-husband had to lecture me a few times on this before I listened, and what a difference it makes! Gone (hopefully) are the days of tofu sticking to the pan and breaking apart when it’s flipped, leaving smaller pieces to burn and stripping the tofu of it’s coating (read: flavor). After each side gets a crust, just remove them and let them cool.

Next, a chopped carrot and green pepper from the Boulder Farmer’s Market went into the peanut oil pan to heat them ever so slightly. I boiled soba noodles according to the instructions on the package and then rinsed them in cold water to keep them from cooking, fried some garlic until crispy, chopped a jalapeño, and sliced a tomato.

I tossed the cold noodles with sesame seeds and the carrot and pepper pieces, and then drizzled some toasted sesame seed oil, fresh squeezed lemon, soy sauce (I prefer the unpasteurized Nama Shoyu brand), and a little local honey. Finally, I added diced jalapeño and crispy fried garlic for an extra crunch and kick.

Fried Garlic

Do you LOVE garlic? Are you totally fine with garlic breath lingering after a meal? I am. But my garlic “chips” really aren’t too crazy. They won’t end your date night early. They’ll be a star on your table if garlic goes well with your meal.

Fried Garlic

This is really easy to make, but you must pay attention or else it will burn.

Peel and slice garlic. I sliced 4 cloves 1/16th inch thick. Heat oil in a pan. I heated 3-4 tablespoons of sunflower oil to medium high. When the oil is hot, add the garlic and stir frequently so each piece cooks evenly.

When golden brown, let cool on a paper towel.

Add as a garnish to soups, salads, grind in a mortar and pestle for garlic powder…

I HOPE Hummus

I was invited to visit Hope Foods, maker of the incredibly fresh and delicious Hope Hummus, in Louisville, Colorado. I’ve seen the name around for a few years now, but I can’t recall ever purchasing one of their products before. I knew that they started selling hummus at the Boulder County Farmers Market, and I knew they’d expanded and were on shelves in a number of our local grocers, but that’s the most I could have told you before last week. Now I could talk your ear off about what a great local company they are and how Hope Hummus should be your hummus of choice if you’re not making it from scratch at home. It will certainly be my go-to when I’m not following Chef Mike Solomonov’s recipe, which is a very traditional Israeli hummus. In fact, I was so inspired by my visit to Hope Foods that I’ll likely tweak chef Solomonov’s recipe the next time I make it.

~Inspiration to create new flavors of garbanzo bean spread~ That’s what came to me on our media party at Hope Foods. We were given two bowls of hummus, a “regular” or savory one and a sweet one that was sweetened with agave syrup. There was a table of ingredients full of spices, herbs, jams, nut butters, pumpkin, roasted peppers, lemons, limes, coconut flakes, goji berries…you name it and it was likely on a table for us to mix our own flavored hummus.

Hope Hummus

I added pumpkin puree, curry powder, cayenne pepper, turmeric powder, lemon juice, fresh thyme and ground black pepper to my savory bowl. Then mixed it all together and scooped it into a Ball jar labeled for A Bolder Table, which was a nice touch 🙂

 

 

 

Next up was the sweet hummus, which I wasn’t really sure what I’d enjoy, so I kept it simple: Almond butter and blackberry jam.

Hope Hummus

This combination would go really well on toast, and I would have NEVER thought of sweetening hummus on my own, so I’m inspired to try a variety of combinations in the future.

 

 

 

 

After mixing up some unique spreads, we were given a tour of the 15,000 square foot hummus factory, and learned that Hope Foods doesn’t make a ton of hummus and store it until an order comes in. They make hummus to order, so there’s a two day turn-around time from when they make the hummus to when it’s loaded on a truck for delivery. That’s FRESH in my opinion. It’s also Cold Pressure Prepped, which means it needs neither preservatives nor high heat to ensure each batch is safe from pathogens, bacteria, and mold. Another important detail that sets them apart from their competitors is adding olive oil rather than canola oil to their hummus. In short, Hope Foods makes fresh hummus using as few ingredients as they can without skimping on ingredient quality to produce a large quantity of food. I can stand behind that.

An operation that started with a group of friends making hummus in a commissary kitchen and selling it at the farmers market now employs 30+ people and makes more than ten different flavors of hummus. In my opinion, this company is doing everything right, and I am proud to have them as a local producer here in Colorado. I hope they continue to spread good things.

 

 

 

 

 

Zoës Kitchen Brings a Taste of the Mediterranean to Colorado

I had the honor and privilege to be invited to a Zoës Kitchen pop-up dinner at Black Eye Coffee in the LoHi neighborhood of Denver to introduce some local media to incredibly delicious food that is about to be served throughout the front range of Colorado. I’d never heard of Zoës Kitchen before, but it’s now a restaurant name I’ll never forget.

Zoës Kitchen is a wildly popular, healthy, fast-casual concept from the south, and is just starting to open a handful of establishments here in Colorado. As someone who seldom visits “chain” restaurants, I arrived at the pop-up dinner with an assumption it would be OK at best. I was completely wrong. This was one of the best dinners I’d enjoyed in a long time.

Zoës Kitchen threw a pop-up dinner party for us in the carefully curated space that is Black Eye Coffee LoHi. A reclaimed wood table that could easily have been set for forty was decorated with a table runner of fresh herbs and candles. It was stunning. We were greeted with cocktails and wine and some small passed plates. Among the hosts was their lead chef, Antonio Iocchi, who led us through a guided olive oil tasting before serving dinner.

Olive Oil Tasting

Our dinner that night was delicious and delightful. The company was very welcoming, with food bloggers and food writers in the mix, the food was fantastic, and the wine was freely poured. To me, that’s the setting for a great dinner party.

We were introduced to the Lupini bean, and I’m pleased to know that when Zoës Kitchen opens in Boulder later this year, I’ll have a place to enjoy my newly found protein-rich snack. Good bye edamame, hello lupini.

Lupini Beans

Upon taking our seats, the Mediterranean Baked Feta and the Hummus Trio were served on large platters to share, family style. These beautiful dishes were fresh, delicious, and memorable. The baked feta was a creamy yet still slightly firm presentation of feta that I’d never tasted before. I helped myself to seconds.

Mediterranean Baked FetaHummus Trio

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next came a demonstration by chef Iocchio on his Live Med Salad, with zucchini ribbons and spinach, topped with farro and lupini beans. It was a perfect salad, in my opinion. I replicated it at home the next night.

Live Med Salad

Entrées came next, and I was starting to fill up, so I didn’t taste everything that was served. I did have a Rosemary Ham and Mozzarella Piadina. I’d never heard of a piadina before, and I’m glad that’s now changed. I can only describe it as a quesadilla-style sandwich with a savory pastry-like dough.  I also had a chicken kabob, and had to then call it quits.

Rosemary Ham and Mozzarella Piadina

Chicken, Salmon, and Veggie Kabobs

 

 

 

 

 

 

…Until dessert came. I ate the whole thing- Ya Ya’s Chocolate Cake- a family recipe that apparently is never quite the same from batch to batch, yet always a favorite.

Ya Ya's Chocolate Cake

Throughout the evening we heard inspiring stories from the Zoës Kitchen team, telling us their philosophy on fresh foods and what it means to live the Zoë lifestyle. Zoës Kitchen is run by a group of people who genuinely love their jobs, love the food, and are excited to share fresh, healthy, convenient, and fairly priced cuisine with the front range of Colorado. They’re a welcomed addition to our burgeoning food scene.

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